‘Absolutely essential’: Lawmakers revive plans to acquire, restore Wahiawa Dam
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State legislators are reviving plans to acquire Lake Wilson and the Wahiawa Dam and Gov. Josh Green said he supports the $26 million deal.
“I support the appropriation in general, I’d like to see it come to my desk,” Green said Wednesday. “Water is very serious for us. We’re serious about agriculture as our next leg of economic development.”
“And for this area of the state, this seems to be key.”
Earlier this year, former Gov. David Ige vetoed the funding to acquire the Wahiawa Dam, Lake Wilson and Dole Food Co.’s nearby irrigation system.
The plan also called for the state to restore the dam and invest in a hydroelectric power plant to generate electricity.
“If the dam is not preserved or upgraded — and this asset is not owned by the state — you’re putting a lot of different things in jeopardy: the future of agriculture, the safety of Otake Cam and the recreational use for fisherman,” said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The 116-year-old Wahiawa Dam is a high hazard dam that’s in desperate need for repairs that Dole can’t afford.
State regulators have said the dam’s northside concrete spillway isn’t large enough to prevent flooding downstream during extremely heavy rains.
Dela Cruz said if owner Dole can’t find a buyer, the dam could be decommissioned — turning Lake Wilson into stream and cutting off Central Oahu farmers from their main water source.
Bruce Clements, whose five-acre cacao farm relies on water from Lake Wilson to irrigate their crops, said former Gov. Ige’s veto prolonged economic uncertainties for farmers like him.
“We don’t get enough rainfall here in this in this area to be able to farm without irrigation water,” Clements said.
“We have to have it. It’s absolutely essential. No water, no farms. I mean, that’s it. That’s it from the bottom line.”
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